Reusable RTOS Aims For Military, Avionics

DN Staff

April 24, 2006

3 Min Read
Reusable RTOS Aims For Military, Avionics

Employing a new "reusable operating system," designers of aerospace and defense systems may now be able to eliminate the time-consuming process of recertifying software for use in every new project.

The software product, offered by LynuxWorks Inc. (http://rbi.ims.ca/4921-516), is believed to be the first to be granted "Reusable Software Component" (RSC) status by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As such, it's the first to eliminate the process of operating system recertification, which can often take six months or more. Known as LynxOS-178 RSC, it is applicable in the design of autopilots, display systems, navigation computers, and flight management systems, as well as in safety-critical components in medical, transportation, industrial and nuclear applications.

"We can save someone three to six months of engineering time just through the guidance we give them," notes Joe Wlad, director of product management for LynuxWorks.

LynuxWorks' new system could be especially important for engineering teams that want to change their hardware - particularly their microcontroller - as they evolve second and third versions of flight management systems and avionics displays. Because LynxOS-178 contains "architecture independent components," it allows engineers to upgrade a microcontroller without the need for a lengthy recertification process. In such situations, the operating system is certified as part of a board support package for the application.

Equally important, the reusable software capabilities play a critical role in applications where developers are making no changes to their operating systems. In such cases, the FAA often calls on developers to prove their real-time operating system (RTOS) does not need recertification, which again can cause design delays.

The company says that LynxOS-178 is certified for reuse on a variety of PowerPC microprocessor architectures, but is not yet approved for reuse with Intel architectures.

Use of recertifiable software components was first granted by an FAA advisory circular in December 2004, but up until now, no commercial products have passed FAA requirements for such use. LynuxWorks, which began development of LynxOS-178 RSC in 2003 in anticipation of the FAA's ruling, is believed to be the only such commercial RTOS product offered.

LynuxWorks says it already has two customers employing the product. A U.S. manufacturer of avionics display systems and a European maker of flight navigation systems are both applying it, the company says.

"Mostly, avionics and aircraft platforms will have a need for it," Wlad notes. "But we're starting to see some ground-based defense systems that will require reusability, too."

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